What do we actually know? The year is 1868, and London is the setting. So, as we knew already, Industrial Revolution London. I think a lot hinges on Ubisoft getting the art direction exactly right, you don’t want to to look too drab, but at the same time it has to invoke the dirty, smoggy atmosphere of the slums in which a lot of the focus takes place.
This is obviously a piece of concept art, but you can clearly see that they have the overall look down nicely. Just looking at this image gives you a sense of a filthy city with factories going at all hours, with the slums being water logged cobble streets peppered with fires in steel drums. Let’s get a bit closer, though and look at the Pre-Alpha footage for a street view.
I have to admit, my first reaction to this was, “this looks stunning”. Graphically, I won’t comment, as it is pre-alpha, but this is looking very promising. It’s not just the buildings, or the little touches with how grass is growing between the cobbles, or even the horse and carriages, it’s Jacob Frye himself. His sense of dress is probably the most sensible yet for an Assassin, it actually looks like something a normal person would wear, and doesn’t scream “ASSASSIN” in neon. Let’s take a closer look.
So basically, a hat (bowler, top? Not sure) a black coat, waistcoat, shirt and trousers. No rows of knives on display, no sword on your hip, no intricate Assassin robes that give you away from a mile off. He takes the hat off for combat, and puts his hood up, and only then does he look even slightly “Assassin-y”. I love his look, and it ties in nicely with the setting and also plays into the fact that the stealth system from AC Unity will return.
His lack of obvious weaponry kind of ties into some changes to the combat system, apparently it’s going to be much more up close and personal. As Ubisoft rightly pointed out, anyone walking around with a sword on show would have been arrested. So Jacob’s weapons are all small and discrete….
So small knife, revolver and brass knuckles. This goes along with tried and tested Assassin staples like the hidden blade and throwing knives. So combat is very much going to be up close and personal, with a heavy focus being placed on getting close to your enemy before striking. Yes, you have a revolver, but it’s a revolver: slow to reload and loud as hell. Not the best route unless you want to attract attention, so while you can use it, they’re probably going to encourage you through the apparently faster paced gameplay not to rely on it heavily. There is another new addition to Jacon’s arsenal though, but this is more a means of traversal…
Yup, the grappling hook rumors were true. This is very much designed to help make the parkour system feel much more fluid, and also to assist you in climbing buildings so much faster than every before. That’s not to say you don’t have parkour skills, but it saves you the laborious job of picking your way up the side of a building like a cat caught on net curtains. Speaking of parkour, something we saw a little of earlier will play into that: the horse and carriage. Now, naturally, this won’t be the only method of travel, but while in the borough of London (there are seven boroughs), it will be the most common.
This is more than a method of travel that you can personally drive, it can be used as a hiding place, a kill spot and can also help you with your parkour. Say you’re leaping down from a building to escape some guards, instead of having to break flow by landing on the street, rolling, then recovering, you can use the carriages like a stepping stone for you to get across and gain a lead on your enemies. Naturally, of course, you can use them to give you a leg up to escape. We have seen travel methods before with horses, but this is undoubtedly the fastest method of travel, and it also ties into the gameplay in several ways so it becomes so much more than just a way to get around.
Next up is another change to the rather tired AC formula: environmental kills. As you can see above, you can manipulate your environment to trigger barrels (and I’m assuming other things, too) to fall and then crush unwitting opponents. All that we’ve learned so far about AC Syndicate seems to indicate that while, yes, this is another city based Assassin’s Creed game, they are still shaking up the game and giving you more tools to use. You are much less rigid in your options as an Assassin, and will use any tool at your disposal. As I discussed in my video, the story of this game revolves around Jacob and his sister, Evie, getting the gangs in the street slums of London on their side, and using their help to fight against the templars. All of the elements of the gameplay seem to tie to this, with Jacob and his sister not being afraid to get their hands dirty to fight their enemies.
You are once again battling for territories, and control of your city, which very much throws us back to Ezio’s arc. While I am still cautious about getting overhyped for this game after the whole AC Unity….. thing… AC Syndicate is looking like an excellent return to form for the series. Hail Britannia.